2017 Woodward Stakes Preview – Gun Runner


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August 31st 2017 – Updated September 2nd 5:00 PM CST

This Saturday at Saratoga, Gun Runner vies for his fourth career Grade 1 win in the Woodward Stakes. The race carries a $600,000 purse and is another “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gun Runner was rated as the third best racehorse in the world in the last Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings on August 6th.

After Arrogate’s losses in the San Diego Handicap and Pacific Classic, Gun Runner will probably assume the #2 spot in the rankings behind the Australian turf mare Winx if he wins. However, there is one caveat.

Winx, a paternal half-sister to Zenyatta, hopes to tie Zenyatta’s streak of 19 straight wins this Saturday in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes race. A win by Gun Runner and loss by Winx could catapult Gun Runner to #1 in the world. 

Below are the post-positions, jockey assignments and morning lines odds. The race will be broadcast live by NBC Sports Network.

The Woodward Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #11 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday September 2nd at 5:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Neolithic (118) – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 6/1
2. Gun Runner (124) – Geroux/Asmussen – 2/5 
3. Rally Cry (120) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 5/2
4. War Story (120) – Ortiz Jr/Navarro – 8/1
5. Discreet Lover (118) – Franco/St. Lewis – 20/1

Race Analysis: This is a disappointing Woodward field with only five horses. Last year’s Woodward Stakes had nine runners, the year before eight. With a 5-horse field, this isn’t going to be a great betting race for exotics. At 2/5 odds, wins bets won’t pay out very much for Gun Runner.  A $100 win bet will only pay back $140 and I would not be surprised if Gun Runner’s odds move to 1/5.

Do you try to beat him with one of the Pletcher horses in Rally Cry or Neolithic? It seems foolish but it has been a strange year for upsets. And they don’t call Saratoga the “Graveyard of Champions” for nothing. At any rate, I have reviewed this field, hoped to find something in the field’s recent races and workouts that would make me want to take a shot at beating Gun Runner. I am not seeing it yet.

My race prediction orderGun Runner, Rally Cry, Neolithic, War Story and Discreet Lover.  

Update: I am doing a $10 Trifecta 2 over 1,3 over 1,3. And a $5 straight Superfecta 2-3-1-4


Songbird Retired 😦

Sad news. It was announced today that the sensational filly Songbird was retired due to damage to her hind suspensories and a severe bone chip. She won in 13 of 15 of her career starts and retires with over $4.6 million in race winnings. Mike Smith on the retirement of Songbird “She was everything you’d want in a racehorse: the balance, the speed, the stamina.”

Her most thrilling race in my opinion is one I saw in person, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (shown below). 


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and the Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds that is scheduled for this coming Monday, Labor Day September 4th. These two races will give us an idea of who the leading Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contenders might be and an early look at 2018 Kentucky Derby class. I should have this blog out by Sunday evening.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 27th 2017

The Travers Stakes proved to be another exciting race that vaulted race winner, West Coast, into my Top Ten Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. 24-1 longshot Gunnevera ran a great race too as I predicted in my Travers race preview. So I will be keeping a close eye on Gunnevera’s workouts and next race entry as I feel he may be peaking at the right time. 

Below are my Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. We still have a couple of races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings. One such race will be the Woodward Stakes next weekend.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. The only knock on his resume currently is that he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

2) Collected* – He moved up in the 4th place in the latest NTRA poll. He’s a perfect 4 for 4 in 2017. His surprise win in the Pacific Classic answered any questions you might have had about his ability to stretch out to 10 furlongs. – Next Start: The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.70 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic

3) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap and then by Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic. There is no doubt that his has lost some closing speed and he has been prone of late to not getting out of the gate quick enough. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 10 Starts 7-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes

4) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-5-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 (estimated) – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic

5) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

6) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

7) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

8) West Coast – Yet another Breeders’ Cup Classic contender from Bob Baffert’s barn. His time of 2:01.19 in the Travers Stakes was impressive. There have only been seven other horses who posted a faster time in the Travers at the 10 furlong distance.  One of which was track record holder Arrogate last year (1:59.36). The other six horses were General Assembly, Honest Pleasure, Easy Goer, Thunder Rumble, Play Fellow and Loud. Next Start: Nothing announced to date.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 

9) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

10) Girvin* – He makes my Top 10 because he has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). However, his Travers Stakes performance was disappointing and he may be better suited for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Next Start: Uncertain.

Career: 8 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.04.39 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75 – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby

Honorable Mention: Gunnevera and Hoppertunity


On the Docket…

My next blog will be a preview of the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga that is scheduled for next weekend, Saturday September 2nd. The Woodward is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’s Cup Classic. I should have this blog out by Thursday evening.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Travers Stakes Preview

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August 22nd 2017 – Updated August 26th 4:38 PM CST

The 148th running of 2017 Travers Stakes has the most competitive field of 3-year-olds that we have seen all year. Entries include the Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, the Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, the Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit and the Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Girvin.

The Travers Stakes is a Grade 1 Stakes race that carries a $1.25 Million dollar purse. It’s not a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic but might as well be as the race winner will probably be viewed as the leading 3-year-old in North America entering the Classic.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockeys and morning-line odds:

The 148th Travers Stakes

1 1/4th Mile – Race #11 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 26th 4:44 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Cloud Computing – Castellano/Brown – 8/1
2. Giuseppe the Great – Gafflione/Zito – 20/1
3. West Coast – Smith/Baffert – 4/1
4. Tapwrit – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 7/2
5. Good Samaritan – Rosario/Mott – 5/1
6. Girvin – Albarado/Sharp – 10/1
7. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1
8. Lookin At Lee – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 30/1
9. McCraken – Hernandez Jr./Wilkes – 12/1
10. Irap – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 8/1
11. Gunnevera – Zayas/Sano – 20/1
12. Fayeq – Saez/McLaughlin – 30/1

Race Analysis: This race is wide-open. There are about six or seven horses in this field that I would not be surprised at all if they won. Right now, I like about three horses for the win: West Coast, Good Samaritan and Gunnevera. So I may try a 10 cent superfecta keying those three horses over 3 others which would cost $18. 

Girvin is one horse I am sure that I would include underneath because he has shown me a willingness to battle. I also like a rested Tapwrit’s possibility of hitting the board. And Always Dreaming has proven that he has won at the 10 furlong distance and he usually puts himself in striking distance. The question will be, will Always Dreaming  fade out like he did in the Jim Dandy?

Last year, when Arrogate won the Travers in a 14 horse field at 11.7 to 1 final odds and race favorite Exaggerator finished out of the money, a 10 cent superfecta paid out $1,045.60. It’s not likely to pay as much this year with a 12 horse field even if a longshot wins. But if Gunnevera or some other longer shot wins, it should still pay out nice.

I am really warming up to Gunnevera in my exotics because I loved his last start in the Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream Park (shown below). It was nearly 3 weeks ago, so a tune-up for the Travers. Yes, it was against a weak field but he absolutely smoked this field in the final 2 1/2 furlongs. I calculated his final 2 1/2 furlong speed at 38.08 mph. He’s a closer but he had no early speed to run at in this race to aid his closing style.

Betting Advice: When bettingI prefer races where I feel that there are one or two clear favorites from my research and this isn’t one of them. I don’t think this is a great betting race for Win bets and Exacta bets, it’s just too unpredictable.

However, there will be a lot of money plunked down on this race and there is money that can be made. I normally don’t like Superfecta bets as they are too hard to hit. I can usually hit three out of four horses but one horse usually surprises me. That being said, a superfecta bet appears to be the way to go for this race. Over the last ten years, a 10 cent superfecta in the Travers, on average, paid out between $450-$500.

So I am going with a smaller outlay/big reward approach. I am going to place a 10 cent Superfecta keying 3 horses to win: West Coast, Good Samaritan and Gunnevera. So 3,5,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11. This 10 cent super will cost $36. If it hits, you should cover your bet at the minimum for a potential $1000 payback if a longer odds horse like Gunnevera wins. If it doesn’t, well it’s just $36 lost–nothing to cry about.

Final Update: I see nothing new to wager on but I am liking how the odds are shaking out thus far. My superfecta bet above was edited, earlier edit didn’t take. 3,5,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11 over 3,4,5,6,7,8,11. This 10 cent super will cost $36.


On the Docket…

My next blog will be updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings. I decided that the Travers Stakes deserved more attention, so I decided to wait until after the Travers to post my next updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings. A big hint, it won’t have Arrogate #1.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 TVG Pacific Classic Preview

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August 17th 2017 – Updated August 18th 2017 – 7:36 PM CST

Tomorrow evening at Del Mar, we have the highly anticipated next start of Arrogate after his disappointing performance four weeks ago in the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a Grade 1 “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It carries a purse of $1 Million dollars.

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds:

TVG Pacific Classic – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #8 at Del Mar – Post-Time: Saturday August 19th at 7:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Royal Albert Hall – Nakatani/Muhall – 30/1
2. Collected – Garcia/Baffert – 5/2
3. Accelerate – Espinoza/Sadler – 3/1
4. Sorry Erik –  Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 30/1
5. Hard Aces – J. Ortiz/Sadler – 20/1
6. Donworth – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
7. Curlin Road – Prat/O’Neill – 20/1
8. Arrogate – Smith/Baffert – 1/1

Race Commentary: If you lost money on Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap, here is your opportunity to gain it back. I believe Arrogate’s performance in the San Diego Handicap was just a hiccup along the way and I foresee him waxing the field this time around. He will be starting off at 1/1 odds. I don’t see them dipping below 1/2 as he probably still has bettors worried.

For exotic bets, I would key Arrogate to win but I don’t have a good feel for an exact combination–yet. I do expect Accelerate will make it into the Superfecta but there are a lot of unknown quantities in this field. Collected is a Bob Baffert-trained horse who I like in my Superfecta. Collected has been on a roll this year, winning in has last three starts. I have always thought that he had a lot of unrealized potential. This race is supposed to confirm for Baffert whether he is a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or Classic entry.

Collected is fast and you should expect that he’ll be in the lead pack or near the front very early. My concern is that he has yet to race at the 10 furlong (1 1/4 mile) distance.

Update: I like 8 over 2,3,7 over 2,3,7 over 2,3,7 Superfecta. At 1/5 odds, I wouldn’t wager on win bets on Arrogate.


On the Docket…

My next blog will be updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings. I should have this out Monday or Tuesday evening (August 21st or 22nd). 


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 14th 2017

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic coming up in less than 12 weeks, it is time for a look at the 2017 Classic contenders. With Arrogate’s surprise loss in the San Diego Handicap about 3 weeks ago, “The Classic” seems to be a bit more wide open than anticipated.

Below are my Top Eight 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. I opted for a Top Eight instead of a Top Ten at this point since it was too difficult rank #9 and #10 in my rankings. We still have four key races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and Longines #1 ranked racehorse in the world was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap in his last start. This was no doubt an unexpected clunker performance. Arrogate will likely get a chance to redeem himself in a rematch vs Accelerate this coming Saturday in the Pacific Classic. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)

Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 –2016 Travers Stakes

2) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. I considered him for the #1 spot in my rankings but he has already lost twice already to Arrogate (2016 Travers & 2017 Dubai World Cup). And he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when  he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 

Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

4) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

5) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

6) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. He would rank higher in my ranking but he has yet to race further than 8 1/2 furlongs. Was his drumming of Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap a fluke? We will see this coming Saturday. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-4-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap  

7) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

8) Girvin* – He qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). A win in the upcoming Travers Stakes could catapult him to the top of the 2017 3-year-old class. Next Start: The Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 26th.

Career: 7 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 13th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.06.71 (estimated) – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75- 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar this coming Saturday and potential rematch of Arrogate and Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


Eddie Olczyk

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It was announced last week that NBC TV color commentator Eddie Olczyk is receiving treatments for colon cancer. His absence has been noticed from recent NBC horse racing broadcasts. Eddie is one of my favorite broadcasters as he shares two of my passions: hockey and horse racing. For a man who is a former NHL hockey player, he has developed into a respected handicapper and horse racing analyst. I first saw Eddie play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in St Louis on April Fool Day in 1989. He was a stud left winger and one of the top young American-born NHL stars at the time. Get well soon Eddie!


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Whitney Stakes Preview

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August 3rd 2017

This coming Saturday we have another high-profile “Win and You’re In” race with the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Inaugurated in 1928, the Grade 1 “Whitney Handicap” carries a $1.25 million dollar purse. A field of seven horses are vying for an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gun Runner is the morning odds favorite at 4/5. 

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:

“The Whitney”

The Whitney Stakes  1 1/8th Mile – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 5th at 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. War Story (121) – Castellano/Navarro – 6/1
2. Breaking Lucky (117) – Contreras/Baker – 8/1
3. Cautious Giant (117) – Bracho/Quartarolo – 30/1
4. Tu Brutus (117) – I. Ortiz Jr./Contessa – 8/1
5. Keen Ice (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 3/1
6. Gun Runner (124) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4/5
7. Discreet Lover (117) – Franco/St. Lewis – 25/1

Race Analysis: Gun Runner is the deserved favorite and you could make a great case that he is now the top thoroughbred in the world on dirt with the surprising recent loss by Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap. I am very high on Gun Runner and normally I would recommend placing a nice, big fat win bet on him here. However, Saratoga has lived up to it’s name as the “Graveyard of Champions” with the number of upsets that the track has seen here already this year.

Keen Ice is the second favorite at 3/1 odds and he holds the distinction as the only living horse to beat a Triple Crown champion when he upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Is another Keen Ice upset in store? Closers have fared well at Saratoga, but I feel that the son of Curlin prefers 10 furlongs over 9.

I am very interested to see how the Chilean-bred horse Tu Brutus performs in this race. He has produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) for in this field (and third best in 2017) when he earned a 118 BSF with his 2nd place finish in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct back in early April. However, in his North American racing career, he has raced a the following distances: 1 1/4 mile, 1 3/8th mile and 1 1/2 mile. So I am not sure how he will take to cutting back in distance. 

War Story and Breaking Lucky have never won a Grade 1 race. From looking at their workout history, Breaking Lucky seems to be training better of the two. However, he has been beaten by Gun Runner twice in the Clark Handicap last November and in his most recent start in June in the Stephen H. Foster Handicap. I don’t see an upset coming from either of these horses or the two longshots: Discreet Lover and Cautious Giant.

At any rate, Gun Runner is a fighter and I think a nice Place bet on him would be the safest bet to make here since strange things have been happening at Saratoga. Betting aside, this should be an interesting race and “must-see” TV.


On the Docket…

My next blog will rank the Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders and then I will preview the 2017 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar which is scheduled for Saturday August 19th. Arrogate and Accelerate are expected entries. If both are entered, this would provide a rematch of Arrogate vs Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap.  Like the Whitney Stakes, the TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael